What happens when your silver bullet isn’t in the abstract?

We English-speaking searchers often have to conduct global patent investigations.  In order to search non-English collections, many of us need to rely primarily on English-language abstract files such as the Patent Abstracts of Japan collection.   Another good option is to search the Derwent World Patents Index, where human editors translate and summarize the document into an English abstract, helping to standardize the technical terminology used in the patent.  But as we all know, it’s impossible to shrink all the useful content of a patent into an abstract, no matter how well it’s translated.

For important prior art searches, companies should consider initiating native-language full text searches in collections of particular interest – and these almost always include Japanese language patents.  But it’s also important to understand which search tools are being used by Japanese-language patent searchers, and whether they have access to high-quality full text data.  Recently I was fortunate to catch a demonstration of CKS Web, a Japanese-language interface which can search a database of full text Japanese patent documents in their native language.

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Are you effectively using Japanese File Index and F-terms?

As an English-speaking patent searcher, sure, you feel comfortable looking up US and IPC classification codes. The classification schedules are easy enough to browse, and you probably understand the hierarchical organization of the systems pretty well. But what about Japanese patent searching – can you use the Japanese national patent classification system with the same confidence ?

Japan is an important source in patent searching – it is well known in the IP industry that the Japanese patent office produces a high volume of patent literature and that this collection is rich in important technical innovations.  As one of the Trilateral offices, the JPO has worked on initiatives to make its collection more accessible to non-Japanese speakers, including the introduction of the Patent Abstracts of Japan file, the major source of English abstracts for Japanese patent applications.

However, to more effectively search their own collection, the Japanese patent office developed two in-house classification systems, known as Japanese File Index terms and Japanese F-terms, respectively.   To effectively search the Japanese collection in-depth, it’s a good idea to get acquainted with these two systems.  Fortunately, these two class schedules  are available (at least in part) in English.   When used in concert, they can provide a powerful method for effective Japanese patent searching.

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